It struck me as I sat here in the office of the job I’ve been in for only 3 weeks, alone, trusted to organise the oncoming storm of students and maybe not blast Kerrang! Radio (I’m not blasting it, btw. It’s just… on low) that I wanted to write a blog post.
But what do you write about when you don’t know what to write about?
Confused? Me too. Let me explain.
It’s been said many times that creative types get a short end of the straw – energy / time / inspiration. Pick two, and you’ll sum up the life of most writers. Most of the time, writers choose to work with little inspiration in favour of making the most of both time and energy. The downside is clearly the fact that we might not have a clue as to what it is we want to use the energy / time for and the story can go in off directions but therein lies the beauty.
If you have no idea what to write about, start with a sentence. Even if it’s a blog post (like this one!) begin by writing about what you did that morning – how did you feel, what’s the weather like? What were your main concerns upon waking up, were there any news stories worthy of communicating? Then figure out if it has a place in your story, or your blog.
Are you having an existential crisis simply by trying to drag your tired behind out of bed? Not only do I understand, but I feel this is great potential for multi-layering a character if you can.
For instance on the way to work this morning I didn’t have my headphones like usual. I overheard conversations, such as a woman trying to get to hospital to visit her friend, while at the same time arguing with what seemed to be her partner over the phone.
She was calm, reasonable, and while anger – with a side order of stress – was the underlying tone in her voice she put her thoughts across very articulately.
“It’s just words” she said, “you say them, but you don’t mean them. I’m learning to look between them now to see what it is you really mean.”
In a way, that’s what we as writers do. Not every word we write will be written with the Lord of the Rings soundtrack playing in the background while the wind whips around our fingers, inspiration and energy flowing through our vessels while time stands still. Many words will be written when we’re banging our heads on the table, watching the clock (6 hours sleep if I go to bed now… 5 hours…) or simply hating our manuscript.
That’s when we have to read between the lines of what we deem illegible crap. Within that, there is an essence of what we’re trying to say. We can be forgiven for not knowing what to write about, but trust your mind to show you the way somehow. There’s a blueprint in your subconscious of what your story wants to become. It’ll show itself, even when you have no idea which direction to go next.
Exactly how I started this blog post.